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36.5 Million Have Filed For Unemployment In 8 Weeks

Morry Gash AP
Closed signs are seen Wednesday in businesses in Milwaukee. The coronavirus pandemic has left millions out of work.

Updated at 9:07 a.m. ET

Nearly 3 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week — bringing the total to 36.5 million in the past eight weeks, the Labor Department said Thursday.

It's the latest sign of the economic damage from the coronavirus crisis. The unemployment rate shot up to 14.7% last month — the highest level since the Great Depression. In February, before the coronavirus shutdowns took hold, unemployment was at a nearly 50-year low of 3.5%.

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On Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell painted a grim picture for the economy.

"The scope and speed of this downturn are without modern precedent, significantly worse than any recession since World War II," he said. A Fed survey found that nearly 40% of workers in households making less than $40,000 a year had lost a job in March, Powell noted.

The economy shrank at a 4.8% pace in the first quarter of 2020, but analysts are forecasting a double-digit drop in coming months.

The numbers are staggering, but since spiking in March — to a record high of 6.9 million — initial jobless claims have now declined for six weeks in a row. They fell by 195,000, or about 6%, in the most recent week ending last Saturday.

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